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Former Church’s Chicken exec leads global push at Dine Brands


Tony Morealejo

When Tony Moralejo was hired as president of international and global development at Dine Brands Global, he arrived at the parent company of Applebee’s and IHOP with two main goals. The first was to embrace innovation.

“I came from QSR to casual dining, and I thought it was somewhat risk-averse,” said Moralejo, who was executive VP of international business and global development at Church’s Chicken, where he retooled the international strategy. “When brands and managers are faced with pressure, they have a tendency to fall back on their traditional ways of doing things.”

The pandemic forced all companies to innovate in order to improve sales performance, so Moralejo admitted he didn’t get the chance to assess Dine Brands’ risk-aversion since he started February 24, just before shutdowns began. His second goal was to ensure the brand was well-defined internationally.

“Sometimes when a brand expands globally, they lose a little identity,” he said. “If a restaurant isn’t quite sure of who they are and what they stand for, they’ll have different problems such as proliferation of the menu and inconsistent guest experiences.” Dine Brands is “well-defined internationally, but the execution could use some improvement.”

While Moralejo’s challenge at Church’s was course-correcting its international presence to a focused identity, at Dine Brands it’s about disciplined growth.

“Not all growth opportunities are created equally. From a macro point of view, you have to approach expansion in a strategic way,” Moralejo said. “Expanding in the markets you’re currently in is a lot easier and less taxing than to go out and simply plant a flag in a brand-new market where you have no presence established.”

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